Bozeman Police: Department 'bursting at seams,' in need of new facility


Bozeman Police: Department 'bursting at seams,' in need of new facility

BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Bozeman City Commission could approve the design and cost estimate for the new Police and Municipal Courts building on Monday.

The facility will be more than 65,000 square feet, compared to the 16,000 square feet the Police and Municipal Courts operate out of now.

The two story building will include a community room, a secure yard, new evidence storage area, and public access from multiple streets.

The new building would be built on the corner of Oak and Rouse. The site is now owned by the Montana Department of Transportation, but the City is making a land swap to acquire it.

The new facility is expected to cost more than $23 million, financed mostly through bonds.

"We are popping at the seams," said Bozeman Police Deputy Chief Rich McLane, as he walked NBC Montana through the Bozeman Police Department's crowded work space at the current Law and Justice Center.

"We outgrew this about the minute we walked into this building," he said.

That was twenty years ago.

The evidence room is stacked floor to ceiling with more than 20,000 pieces of evidence.

The conference room doubles as a lunch room and the room police use to sort through evidence.

And about 65 officers share a crowded group of cubicles.

"The force obviously has effectively doubled plus a little bit, and there's no indication that those kind of changes won't continue into the future," Bozeman Police Chief Ron Price explained.

Price said building a new facility is not just a matter of convenience for his officers, but ultimately a matter of public safety.

"The new building is designed to provide a level of safety for both the officers and for the people that come and expect our services," he said.

One major issue right now is the way the interview rooms are set up.

"We have three interview rooms for all the crimes we investigate," McLane said.

That means multiple witnesses, victims, and suspects all crowd into the same area. Police explained is not a safe or proper way to handle investigations.

The new facility would fix that.

During the design process of the new Police and Municipal Courts facility, police worked closely with the architects.

"The building is designed with the future in mind and it is designed to be very fluid," Chief Price explained.

That means secure areas for witnesses, evidence, equipment, police, and the public.

Chief Price and Deputy Chief McLane said this new building will help them better do their job, keeping Bozeman's growing population safe.

The City Commission will vote whether to approve the design concepts and estimated costs for the new building at the Commission meeting on Monday.

The next step is putting the bonds to pay for the facility on the November ballot.

If voters approve the bonds, Commissioner Chris Mehl said it could raise taxes between $40 to $60 per household per year.

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